Old Persian books St Leger place and Cross Counter heads to Australia
The three-year-olds Old Persian and Cross Counter, both trained by Charlie Appleby, were first and second respectively in the G2 Great Voltigeur Stakes, staged over a mile and a half at York, UK, on Wednesday, 22 August.
Dubawi colt Old Persian, the mount of James Doyle, raced in second place as Nelson took the field along. Cross Counter, a three-year-old son of Teofilo partnered by William Buick, was settled in fourth.
Old Persian was asked for an effort half a mile from home and responded well to take the lead at the three-furlong marker. Cross Counter made steady progress from half a mile out and moved up to challenge his stablemate entering the final furlong.
Inside the final furlong, Old Persian stayed on tenaciously to score by a head from the staying-on Cross Counter.
The winning time was 2m 28.34s on ground described as good to firm.
Today’s win was a second G2 success for Old Persian following his victory in the King Edward VII Stakes over the same distance at Royal Ascot in June.
Trainer Charlie Appleby explained that Old Persian is now likely to head for the final British Classic of the season, the G1 St Leger (1m 6.5f, Doncaster, UK, 15 September), while Cross Counter will travel to Australia for the G1 Melbourne Cup (2m, Flemington, Australia, 6 November).
Charlie Appleby said: “Take nothing away from Old Persian. He has carried a penalty today and came into the race as a G2 winner – he had proper credentials.
“He was a game winner at Royal Ascot and when he went to Ireland we probably backed him up quick enough and it was a different run style from what we saw today.
“In Ireland, I mentioned to William (Buick) to take him back and try to finish the race out. Unfortunately, William rode to orders and my race reading wasn’t quite right! Needless to say, they went steady, it turned into a sprint, and we weren’t in the right position.
“We felt he came into today as a live player. Myself, William and James sat down this morning and I told James to let the horse get into a rhythm. If he is at all taking you on, then you are not going quick enough and therefore he does not breathe the right way round.
“James gave him a fantastic ride behind the pace. He switched off and got into a lovely rhythm, which is why he saw it out as well as he did. He is bred to get a trip and has galloped out strongly there.
“Old Persian will head to the St Leger, whereas Cross Counter is still on course for the Melbourne Cup.
“Cross Counter will start quarantine in four weeks’ time. The early batch start quarantine tomorrow and are in there for two weeks. Cross Counter will be part of the second batch.
“I think we have a nice team going down there but it all depends on how they travel. That is the biggest challenge. But if they all turn up there in the nick they are in on this side of the water, they are going to be big players.
“We contemplated missing today with Cross Counter and going earlier to Australia. It is my first time taking a three-year-old to Australia and, with the experience I have had with the older horses, I felt taking a three-year-old down there and giving him a prep run going into the Melbourne Cup might be a bit challenging for him. I would rather get the weight off this side of the water and turn up fresh.”
James Doyle added: “I was very impressed with Old Persian. I spoke to Charlie this morning and he said to pop away and completely leave it to him wherever he relaxes.
“He was a little bit gassy early but once we settled down into a rhythm, he switched off beautifully and went through his gears well. I thought he was very brave.
“Ultimately, all he does is gallop, and it’s onwards to the St Leger. I think he will stay. He was dominant at the line and is a real fighter.”